BG Reads | News You Need to Know (August 19, 2019)



City memo says Austin could put limits on where homeless people may camp or rest (Austin Monitor)

Austin will reexamine its new rules governing homelessness, according to a memo released Friday.

The memo sent to City Council on behalf of Austin’s Homelessness Strategy Office says the city could abandon its idea to make space for emergency encampments in every Council district.

The office said after meeting with the Downtown Austin Alliance, the Greater Austin Crime Commission, service providers, public safety officials, and the city’s newly formed Homeless Advisory Committee, it is prepared to place limits on where – and how long – people can camp and sit or lie down in public.

Council voted to scale back rules on those behaviors in June, allowing people to rest or camp in public as long as they didn’t do so on city parkland, completely obstruct a sidewalk or present a public health or safety risk to themselves or others. The decision was met with pushback from Austinites who argued the new rules allowed for more visible encampments throughout the city… (LINK TO STORY)

Pflugerville boasts highest percentage black population in Austin metro (Community Impact)

Sheldon Lamey called Austin home for most of his life until the housing market became too expensive for him, so he decided to relocate to Pflugerville 10 years ago. He said his motivation was simple: a lower cost of living equaled a higher quality of life.

His experience is anything but isolated.

As Pflugerville’s population has increased significantly in the past 20 years, so too has the size of its black community. With a population of just over 16,000 recorded during the 2000 census, 9.5% of city residents were black. Seventeen years later, the city’s population had tripled to more than 58,000 residents, 17.1% of which identified as black.

According to data from the 2000, 2010 and 2017 population estimates compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, Pflugerville has the largest percentage black population out of all suburban cities in the Austin metro… (LINK TO STORY)

Austin airport eyes incentives for flights to Hawaii, Ireland and several Asian hubs (Austin Business Journal)

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport leaders are showing their cards when it comes to cities they hope to connect to soon.

The airport could soon try to incentivize nonstop service from Austin to Hawaii — as well as international destinations in Ireland, China and South Korea.

The city's Aviation Department, which runs the airport, is proposing updates for its incentives program, which offers marketing assistance and fee waivers to airlines starting nonstop flights. The program is meant to entice carriers to launch new routes to and from Austin-Bergstrom that airport officials, business groups and leisure travelers want. It's a multimillion-dollar effort that's flown under the radar but been used by both legacy and budget airlines, as well as international carriers… (LINK TO STORY)


Dustin Burrows resigns as Texas House GOP Caucus chairman amid allegations of targeting Republicans (Texas Tribune)

State Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock has resigned as chair of the Texas House GOP Caucus amid allegations that he and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen planned to politically target members from their own party in the 2020 primaries.

Burrows' departure marks the largest fallout yet since the accusations surfaced.

On Friday, the caucus executive committee sent an email to members saying that it had "met and accepted" Burrows' resignation as caucus chair. The email, which also announced that state Rep. Stephanie Klick of Fort Worth had been elevated from vice chair to chair of the caucus, confirmed what two sources had told The Texas Tribune earlier Friday… (LINK TO STORY)

Ransomware Attack Hits Local Governments In Texas (KUT)

The number of local government entities in Texas affected by a ransomware attack is now up to 23. In a release Saturday afternoon, the Texas Department of Information Resources said the local governments reported the attacks Friday morning. The majority of them are smaller local governments.

In an email to KUT, a spokesman for Austin's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said the city was currently not impacted by the cyberattack.

"We are monitoring the situation," Bryce Bencivengo said.

The DIR said it is continuting to investigate the origin of the attack, but at the moment believes it came from a "single threat actor." The agency said State of Texas systems and networks have not been affected… (LINK TO STORY)

Houston Democrat Jessica Farrar to retire from Texas House (Texas Tribune)

State Rep. Jessica Farrar, a Houston Democrat who has served in the Texas House for over two decades, is retiring from the lower chamber at the end of September.

“I want to thank my constituents and the people of Texas for the high honor and privilege of representing them in the Texas Legislature these last 25 years,” Farrar said in a statement Friday. “My time in public service has provided me the opportunity to serve my state and community in ways for which I will forever be grateful.”

Farrar, an attorney first elected to the lower chamber in 1994, represents House District 148, which covers parts of northern and western Houston. The district has historically been a safe seat for Democrats… (LINK TO STORY)


How legalizing hemp accidentally helped marijuana suspects (NBC News)

With the passage of new hemp-legalization laws over the past eight months, crime labs across the country have suddenly found themselves unable to prove that a leafy green plant taken from someone’s car is marijuana, rather than hemp. Marijuana looks and smells like hemp but has more THC, the chemical that makes people high.

Without the technology to determine a plant’s THC level, labs can’t provide scientific evidence for use in court. Without that help, prosecutors have to send evidence to expensive private labs that can do the tests or postpone cases until local labs develop their own tests, a process that could take months.

Rather than deal with prohibitive costs or lengthy delays, prosecutors in several states, including Texas, Florida and Ohio, are dropping low-level pot cases altogether or declining to bring new ones. Police in those states are now unsure whether their age-old pretext for searching cars ─ the smell of pot ─ is still valid. Some have been told not to make any arrests for marijuana possession, although they can issue tickets and confiscate the suspected drugs for testing later… (LINK TO STORY)


We’re taking a summer hiatus, so please enjoy some our favorite past episodes in the interim:

BG Podcast Episode 13: Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President/CEO at Huston-Tillotson University, on Community Engagement in East Austin

Today's podcast was originally recorded on August 27, 2018 and features a discussion Dr. Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Huston-Tillotson University (HT), a private historically black university located in Austin’s East Side.

The East Side is one of the most active areas for commercial and residential development in Austin. Our conversation covers Dr. Burnette’s vision for how HT (which owns several blocks) will navigate the wave, as well as connections to the Austin community overall… (LINK TO SHOW)

The Bingham Group, LLC is an Austin-based full service lobbying firm representing and advising clients on municipal, legislative, and regulatory matters throughout Texas.


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